Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: All That You Need To Know

The Coronavirus pandemic has caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs. To help the unemployed meet their financial needs, the federal government has announced the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. This financial relief measure is for those individuals who are otherwise not eligible for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. 

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is a part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) act signed into law in March 2020. 

Who Can Apply For PUA? 

As said earlier, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program provides monetary relief to those not qualified for regular UI benefits but meet the eligibility criteria for PUA. This includes the self-employed, 1099 independent contractors, employees of churches, gig workers, employees of nonprofits, or those seeking part-time employment. 

Eligibility Criteria For PUA Benefits

To qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits, the applicant must meet certain criteria such as: 

  • Must not be eligible for other forms of UI benefits such as Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE), Extended Benefits (EB), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), etc. 
  • Must have been scheduled to start a job for an employer 
  • Must have been self-employed or been scheduled to start self-employment
  • Must not qualify for the UI benefits in another state or U.S. territory, 

In addition to these requirements, the applicant must be fully or partially unemployed for any one of the qualifying reasons. 

  • The applicant is experiencing symptoms or diagnosed with Coronavirus and is seeking medical help
  • A member of the applicant’s household has contracted Coronavirus
  • The applicant is providing care for a family member diagnosed with Coronavirus
  • The applicant is unable to reach this/her employment place because of quarantine imposed
  • The applicant is unable to reach his/her employment place because a health care provider has advised him/her to self-isolate due to concerns related to Coronavirus
  • The applicant had to quit his/her job as a direct result of Coronavirus
  • The applicant’s place of employment has shut down as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak
  • The applicant has been scheduled to commence a job but cannot reach the workplace due to the pandemic
  • The head of the household lost his/her life due to Coronavirus, and the applicant is the major breadwinner

Documents Required To Apply For PUA

To apply for the PUA benefits, the applicant must submit the following documents.

  1. Proof of wages/income for the tax year January 1, 2019, to December 31, 2019
  2. Copies of pay stubs, IRS Form W-2 or IRS Form 1099, earning statements, schedule C, F, or SE, and federal income tax Form 1040 if the applicant is a 1099 independent contractor or an employee 
  3. Copy of schedule 1, 2, C, F or SE tax return and IRS Form 1040 for self-employed
  4. Social Security Number 
  5. Name and address of employer impacted due to the Coronavirus

How Is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Amount Calculated? 

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program provides financial relief for up to 39 weeks. The benefit amount is calculated based on the guidelines set by the federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) program. The minimum benefit an applicant will receive is 50% of the state’s weekly unemployment benefit, i.e., $190 weekly.

How To Apply for PUA Benefits?

1. To apply for PUA, visit your state’s Department Of Labor (DOL) website.

  • Click “File A Claim” to file for regular UI benefits. This is because to qualify for PUA you must be ineligible to receive UI benefits
  • When you disqualify for UI benefits, you will automatically be redirected to “file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” page
  • Submit your Social Security Number, driving license, telephone number, email address, etc. details 

2. If your application does not include proof of income or employment details, provide them to the concerned authorities within 21 days by mail or fax.

  • This can include scheduled C, F, etc. tax returns
  • Final pay stub in 2019
  • If you don’t have any of above-mentioned documents, you can provide 2018 federal tax returns details
  • Proof of employment 

3. Wait for the authorities to process your application. If you qualify for benefits, you will receive a determination letter, which will include instructions on how to file weekly claims.

 4. File for weekly claims

Is PUA Taxable?

Similar to the UI benefits, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is taxable income, and you need to report it on your federal income tax returns. 

Final Words 

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is one among federal initiatives that aim at helping the unemployed make it through difficult times. If you have lost your source of income due to the Coronavirus, then waste no more time and apply for the PUA benefits. 



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